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on 7 February 2016
After loosing my initial version of this book( I got 20 years ago), I've been searching everywhere to find it. I finally have it!
This book was one of the first I read that change my life as a scientist. It covers so many things about the world that we live in and what surround us.
Plus, it was written with the love of both Carl and Ann.
Amazing book if you are a curious person:)
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on 24 November 2013
I love Carl Sagan like "a god" although being from a younger generation, I did not have the chance to benefit from his teachings live.

Having read few of his books (this one I understand written with his wife), I found this one was a bit different than usual. Admitedly, I was expecting something different from the title but not sure what exactly, perhaps something mystical. This book is relatively purely centered on our direct ancestors that started to walk upright few million years ago. It mainly deals with evolution, DNA and biology.
Carl provides us with tons of anecdots and stories from experiments with chimps. This really works well in this book. Carl's language in this book can actually in some places be quite strong but always serves the purpose.
I particularly liked the parts dealing with the purpose of DNA. A well known biologist said smth like our bodies are simple shells to protect the fragile DNA chain of proteins and make it meet its end. I believe that is true.

Some very simple and naked truths come out of this book. For example Carl explains the behaviour in a group of chimps, what leaders do, etc. Carl related every little habits we have in everyday life to these long forgotten times when we were dwelling in caves. For example the exitment to have a sexual intercourse with a total stranger away from the tribe territory or comfort zone.

The 2/3 pages story on the alpha male in the middle of the book is really speaking to the reader.
In 2/3 pages, this summarises quite well our every day life. We like to think ourselves completely departed from that time of our evolution but we are not. We are still animals that hardly control their pulsions. Sagan explains all this very well.

I take it as understanding where we come from is a necessary step to improve our every day life and relations with others.

More negatively, I found the book had a disjointed structure and the rythm is not to my liking. Carl starts, comes back, insert a biography of Darwin for pages, etc. I think a bit more editing and re-reading would have restructured the book at bit better.

Overall, a very good book to try to understand "really" and simply where we come from.
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HALL OF FAMEon 17 October 2005
Who will ever replace him? Carl Sagan's writings range from excellent to outstanding, and Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors ranks at the zenith of his efforts. Taking us along the history of life, he vividly explains how close we are to the other animals inhabiting this planet. The theme rests on the continuity of life, from the simplest cells through the complex creatures. Since zoology for so long focused on the 'special place' of humanity in nature, Sagan builds an exceptional case for returning us to our true origins. With the prejudices we've inherited from our various cultures, the task is daunting, but he manages it with irrefutable logic. His prose brings our associates in the animal kingdom into distinct focus, overcoming human penchants for uniqueness with clarity and wit. Copernicus removed us from the centre of the universe. Darwin showed life as an evolutionary process. Sagan removes the final veil of our self aggrandizement.
After a description of DNA's development over the ages, he brings us to our nearest genetic neighbours, the primates. His section titled 'Some Sketches from Life' points up numerous behaviour patterns shared among us all. Communication, grief, vulnerability to illnesses, raising young - the list seems almost endless. The result is the replacement of our 'special status' by a clearer identity as a community of primates. Tell your friends that only 0.4% of our working genes and that of chimpanzees are different. If they dispute you, buy them a copy of this book and sit them down to read it. From the first page they will encounter mind opening ideas. Sagan stresses our kinship with other animals, and begs us all to 'stop pretending we're something we're not' - a dominant species with a mandate to rule the planet and its occupants.
Sagan handles the 'god' question with delicacy. Surprisingly, he makes no assault on deities, but gently goes over the history of life and what we've learned of its mechanisms. Humans who argue that 'consciousness' and the idea of a 'soul' are shown to be illusory. His final analysis simply outlines in brief detail how the process of life has evolved, concluding that deities are simply unnecessary [p. 472]. Read the book and suggest it to friends. Don't let it go, make them buy it. It belongs on your bookshelves. It belongs in everyone's library. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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on 19 January 2013
informative view on life, not forward thinking enough for me . not much else to say really except some would really enjoy it .
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on 19 September 2008
Carl has pulled together a great deal of topics here and put them together to try to answer the Big One... where did we come from? There are some wonderful sections to this book, the explanation of Darwin's theory of evolution, mixed in with biographical details of Darwin's life at the time he formulated his theories is a joy to read. Other sections explaining DNA and Behaviour modes are equally interesting. But sadly, Carl seems intent, almost from the very start, to use his ability to take complex scientific facts and explain them in clear terms, to take pot shots at God and those who believe in God. It is bizarre that somone who requires stringent proof for scientific facts, feels that he can, without providing one jot of evidence or proof, state that the very existence of the universe and everything in it, including Life here on Earth, means there is no need for a God. It's like me saying that the fact that I have a manual that explains how my car works means that there is no need for a car designer. STOOOOOPID!!!!!! How could he NOT see the folly of his persistent little swipes at God? Had he not made any reference to God at all this would have been a masterpiece. But being of a religious nature myself, I found this book tragically flawed by these irritating and totally irational and unncessary comments.
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on 19 May 2014
A book true to itself, its authors and its audience. This should be obligatory in every school, all over the world, because its knowledge its essential, and may be experienced by each and everyone.
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on 19 April 2003
We can say this book became old in some aspects, as when affirm human beings have 100.000 genes. Nowaday everybody knows we only have 30.000 genes. In spite of this, is very actual in the most important aspects and give us a wide glimpse of how the life began and how the animals and we have evolved.
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on 1 October 2014
Good value and service.
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on 20 March 2015
I was disappointed by the condition of the book, it was very poor.
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